There's no doubt that the modern work environment is a hotbed of . stress
With nonstop emails, constant pings on Slack, and a slew of endless meetings, we rarely have enough time to do our best work, if any real work at all. We're overworked, overwhelmed, and vulnerable to burnout.
We all crave a better work-life balance and have welcomed mindfulness into our lives as the answer. There are currently more than 1,300 mindfulness apps in the App Store, with the global wellness industry bringing in a mind-blowing $3 trillion-plus a year.
While there are thousands of mindfulness practices you could apply to your life, there's one you probably haven't heard of, even though it's used by top CEOs like Arianna Huffington and professional athletes: Sophrology.
Developed in the 1960s by Colombian neuro-psychiatrist Alfonso Caycedo, Sophrology is a blend of Eastern and Western philosophies and practices, combining concentration, deep breathing, visualization, and gentle movements called Dynamic Relaxation.
While not widely known in North America, Sophrology has been practiced in schools in Switzerland and France for decades.
A recent study from Kent Business School found that practicing Sophrology in the workplace had a positive impact on employees' physical and mental well-being, while the French national rugby team practiced Sophrology while training for the latest World Cup.
Two Sophrology practices you can try today
Like all mindfulness training, Sophrology isn't a quick fix but rather a mental tool set to help you achieve more balance in your stressful life. To start your own practice, it's usually recommended to have a few one-to-one or group sessions with a trained practitioner.
Dominique Antiglio, founder of BeSophro, teaches Sophrology to businesses and individuals in the U.K. and shared these two easy ways to start your own Sophrology practice:
To release mind and body tension
Start in a comfortable standing position, close your eyes, and focus your attention on your body. Are you feeling any physical tensions? Is your mind racing, making it hard to concentrate on a single thought?
Bring both arms straight above your head and inhale deeply, inflating your abdomen first, then your chest, and hold your breath. While holding your breath, physically tense every part of your body, including your face and toes, for three seconds.
Release the tension as you exhale and lower your arms back to your sides. As you breathe out, try to focus and be fully aware of the tension being released from your whole body.
Go through these motions three times without rushing, taking time to explore the relaxing sensation you feel each time you stop tensing your body.
To help calm and focus the mind
By breathing: While standing or sitting upright, start inhaling, counting to at least three or four (or more if you have the lung capacity). Exhale for a count of five or six (or more). To enhance focus, place a hand on your lower stomach and pay attention to its movement. As you inhale, your stomach should rise, and as you exhale it should deflate.
Follow this breathing rhythm for three to four minutes to feel the maximum benefits.
By humming: Again, start either standing or sitting upright. Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, gently hum. There's no specific count here, but make sure your humming (exhalation) time is longer that your inhalation.
After a few breaths, start to notice how the sound of your humming is making different parts of your body vibrate. This simple practice helps calm the mind and makes you more in tune with your body.